David Cameron would be prepared to tax air travel as he fleshes out the Tories’ commitment to higher green levies. The Conservative leader also signalled his intention yesterday to install wind turbines and solar panels in Downing Street if he wins the next General Election.
His comments come as a poll places him decisively ahead of Gordon Brown, his likely opponent, on environmental issues.
Mr Cameron has made great play of his green credentials, appointing environmentalist Zac Goldsmith to head one of his policy reviews and pledging to raise duties on pollution to fund tax cuts for families.
He has so far refused to detail specific tax pledges and shadow Chancellor George Osborne appeared to dismiss the prospect of a special duty on flights this month. But in a pre-recorded interview for The Politics Show broadcast yesterday, Mr Cameron said: "Some green taxes do hit the poorest in our society, so we have to think about that very carefully before we make taxation decisions.
"If it means putting a tax on air travel, then yes, that’s something we’d be prepared to do."
But he added that now was not the time to make that decision: "Let’s make budgetary decisions closer to budgetary times."
Mr Cameron is currently having green energy devices fitted to his new home in West London and said he would try to do the same in Number 10 "if they’d let me".
He added: "I think it would be a great idea because one of the things about the environment is ... the government has got to give the lead."
Mr Cameron also gave his unequivocal backing to Liberal Democrat-controlled Richmond council’s plans to charge the drivers of the most polluting vehicles higher parking fees.
He has previously been reluctant to do so, saying only that they were "very interesting".
But, asked whether he would back specific measures like that, Mr Cameron said: "Yes – absolutely. Westminster, a Conservative controlled council, does free parking for battery controlled cars..."
His comments risk angering local Conservatives who condemned the plans as a "revenue-raising" exercise when they emerged last week.
But all three parties have expressed support for the idea in principle now, after Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw praised Richmond’s move as "brave and courageous".
Mr Cameron said "gas-guzzling" cars would be in the Tories’ sights when they were drawing up their greener taxation system.
"We have said that we are going to raise the percentage of tax that comes from green taxes so we can actually rebalance the tax system," he said.
"That’s going to mean we’ve got to look at things like air transport, like the gas-guzzling cars, we’ll come up with those ideas closer to a General Election."